As a person who despises confrontation, deciding to host an all-vegan Christmas dinner was scary for me. I was raised eating meat and not thinking twice about it. Not too long ago, I would have found great joy in roasting a turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. But my viewpoints regarding consumption of meat has changed drastically over the past three years. For this reason, I can definitely understand why people close to me may be a little confused or maybe even annoyed by my change of heart and habits. My fear of the kind of reaction I would receive from family and friends came very close to holding me back from hosting the kind of Christmas Eve celebration I most desire to host. But after some careful consideration I decided to take a leap into the unknown and follow my heart.
A little over three years ago I read Eat To Live, which discusses the merits of a plant-based diet and provides a plethora of information portraying the negative effects of consuming animal products. Shortly after that, I began cutting back on meat and eventually became a vegetarian, still eating seafood occasionally. Last January, I made the leap to becoming fully vegan and have since been on a journey of learning and exploration that has involved intense emotions, powerful experiences and a whole lot of delicious food!
In past years, I was fine making vegetarian dishes for myself and everyone else could bring whatever meat they wanted to have. But this year, during the weeks that led up to Thanksgiving, I found myself having a bit of anxiety over the prospect of seeing a headless, roasted bird in front of me on the dinner table. Because I wasn’t hosting, there was nothing to be done except be a gracious guest and prepare some delicious vegan food for myself and to share. It was at that time that a thought popped into mind that made me very happy – next year I would definitely host a vegan Thanksgiving!
Sometime after that it was decided amongst my family that I would host Christmas this year. When it came down to deciding the dinner menu, I questioned whether or not to do all vegan food. I would, of course, be cooking all vegan, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about others bringing meat. Thinking back to my anxiety during Thanksgiving, I brought the issue up to my non-vegan husband to see what he thought, as this is his house, too. I’m very fortunate that my husband has been so supportive and understanding since I went vegan. Even though he still eats animal products, he really enjoys the food I make and has even told me that he appreciates my emphasis on eating healthy, whole foods. He said he was fine with having an all-vegan Christmas dinner and would support me in whatever decision I made.
Having the support from my husband felt great, but I was very nervous about what the discussion would be like with other people in my family. My feelings were conflicted because I didn’t want anyone to feel like they were missing out on anything on this celebratory holiday, but at the same time, I really wanted to host a dinner that I felt comfortable with and proud of. Ultimately, my decision came down to the fact that I want to promote an atmosphere of love and joy in my home and in order to do that, I would have to follow my heart. I also wanted to prepare an amazing vegan feast that would knock the socks off of my guests!
My initial discussion with family members went well, and I felt so relieved. I realized after having one chat, I was actually shaking from the nerves! I was so scared of standing up for my decision and for any confrontation that may occur. But I did feel confidant in the fact that I was doing what I felt was right for me. Since then, to my dismay, words like “intolerant” and plans to have Christmas dinner elsewhere next year have already been circling. It’s disappointing to me that setting aside one’s personal habits and traditions for one night to explore another person’s would be so difficult.
For the most part, I feel like my family has been supportive of my transition to veganism, even if they may not understand or agree with all of my reasons. I think that caring for someone involves being there for them despite differences and I appreciate that my family is willing to concede to my request this year. I just hope that there can be discussions and open communication rather than passive aggressiveness or anger.
Conflicting viewpoints are difficult, regardless of the topic, and I have always been one to run screaming from confrontation. My hope is that I can get through this holiday graciously, speaking my truth, listening to other peoples’ truths and sharing joy.